How Compound Bow Works

The majority of bow hunters take to the woods with a compound bow. I hope my recurve and long bow shooting friends will forgive me for saying so, but the compound bow put the sport of archery on the map and made it possible for mere mortals to partake in the excitement of bow hunting.
In my eyes compound bows did for bow hunting what telescopic sights did for firearm hunting. Compound bows allow hunters to shoot accurately, more consistently, and at longer ranges. Although the dust may have settled a bit, the refinements and advancements available in compound bows continues to amaze me.

Compound bows use a pair of wheels, energy wheels, or hard cams to store kinetic energy prior to the string being released. Upon release, energy from the bow limbs is released through the wheels or cams and sends the arrow speeding towards the target.

Speeding is an appropriate term. The compound bows of today are capable of producing blazing speeds, flatter trajectories, and accuracy that would have left Fred Bear himself speechless.

Much of the speed and accuracy we are currently enjoying can be attributed to technology which has provided better and stronger limb design and the introduction of energy wheels and action cams.

Wheel bows feature two round wheels with cables attached at various points to accommodate different draw lengths. Energy wheel bows work the same way, but incorporate a slightly out of round wheel that can better store kinetic energy and sling shot arrows forward at increased speeds. Action cams appear to be energy wheels with a lobe added on. The aggressive shape of these cams causes the bow to launch arrows with an explosive burst of energy.

The more aggressive (out of roundness or overall size) the wheel or cam, the more arrow speed the bow is likely to generate. Unfortunately, there are tradeoffs associated with these dramatic increases in speed. Energy wheel and cam bows cannot provide the smoothness or the shot-to-shot accuracy of a wheel bow. There is also more recoil with energy wheel and cam models and because of the aggressive action of these bows, the all-important timing tends to need adjustment more than a wheel bow.

Of the many compound bow brands and styles currently available, all feature excellent models for hunting and IBO shooting. The type of bow that best suits each hunter varies depending on budget, shooting style, and hunter expectations.

Admittedly, I’m a fan of fast bows, high-tech arrows, release aids, and anything else that can effectively give me a little more controllable arrow speed. Not surprisingly, most of my hunting bows fall into the energy wheel and action cam categories.

When selecting a hunting bow I suggest you ask yourself some direct questions.

1. Will I Shoot With Finger Tabs Or A Mechanical Release?

If the answer to this question is finger tabs, wheel or energy wheel bows are the only logical choices. These styles of bows deliver a smooth draw, low recoil, and smooth follow-through that are conducive to achieving consistent and crisp arrow releases.

Releasing an arrow smoothly using finger tabs is an art in itself. The slightest slip-up and the arrow is directed off target. When a poor arrow release is made with an action cam bow the problem is compounded and arrow flight problems become commonplace.

Shooters who use a mechanical release may choose all three models of compound bows with confidence. A release aid enables hunters to achieve crisp and consistent releases shot after shot.

2. What Draw Weight Is Best?

For serious whitetail hunting I recommend at least 50 to 60 pounds of peak draw weight for adult males. Youngsters and women may be forced by necessity to shoot 40 to 50 pounds of peak draw weight.

I recommend that hunters shoot as much weight as they can comfortably draw, hold and shoot accurately. I personally shoot between 75 and 80 pounds on all my hunting bows. Increased arrow speed and a flatter trajectory plus improved penetration are three big reasons to shoot at your maximum peak draw weight.

Hunters who can’t pull heavy draw weights should consider opting for an action cam bow that generates a little more arrow speed than comparable wheel or energy wheel bows set at the same peak draw weight. Action cam bows typically shoot 20 to 30 feet per second faster than wheel or energy wheel bows depending on the arrow selected.

Hunters may also select graphite arrows to maximize speed and penetration with low peak draw weight bows. Simply switching from aluminum to graphite arrows will add another 10 to 20 fps of arrow speed regardless if the bow is a wheel, energy wheel, or cam model.

3. What Percentage Of Let Off Is Best?

Letoff preference varies from shooter to shooter. Most compound bows feature standard letoffs set at 50, 60, or 65 percent. The lower the letoff the more arrow speed a bow can produce.

A growing number of manufacturers are offering bows that feature 70, 75, and even 80 percent letoff. High letoff bows enable the hunter to hold considerably less weight at full draw. Set at 70 pounds peak draw weight, an 80 percent letoff bow enables the hunter to hold only 14 pounds at full draw!

High letoff bows are a dream to draw, hold, and shoot, but they also cost the hunter some valuable arrow speed. The difference in arrow speed between a 65 percent and 80 percent letoff bow usually runs about 10 to 15 fps. This speed loss can be made up by switching to graphite arrows or by increasing peak draw weight about five pounds.

High letoff bows are available in wheel, energy wheel, or cam models. Also, high letoff bows can easily be converted to 65 percent letoff by installing a different set of modules.

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